News

SCOTUS Agrees to Review Public Access First Amendment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of whether the operator of a public-access TV channel is a state actor who can be sued by two producers for an alleged First Amendment violation, The ABA Journal reports. The case raises the broader question of whether private property can be a public forum. The producers argue that the Manhattan Neighborhood Network was a public forum, and their First Amendment rights were violated when it stopped airing their video. The network is owned by a private nonprofit, who claims the video included harassing and threatening language. 
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Park Service Proposes New Rules for Protests

Public comments are being sought on a proposal from the National Park Service that would overhaul rules for protests in front of the White House and at other iconic locations in Washington, D.C. The Hill reports that the proposal would close much of the sidewalk north of the White House to protests, limit the ability for groups to have spontaneous protests without permits in that area and on the National Mall, and would open the door to potentially charging some demonstrating groups fees. The NPS cites its mandate to protect land, saying that it wants to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted." Opponents say it is an attempt to limit free speech and that those spaces need to remain welcoming for the First-Amendment-guaranteed right to protest.

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Supreme Court Hears Dispute in Reporter Libel Suit

Tennessee Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a $200 million libel case brought against reporter Phil Williams by Nashville’s district attorney, the Tennessean reports. At issue was whether Williams must provide District Attorney Glenn Funk the notes, information and other documents gathered when reporting on the stories involving Funk in order to prove Williams acted with malice. Funk filed the libel case against Williams and the station’s parent company, Scripps Media, in February 2016, following two stories by Williams pertaining to a deal Funk struck with Nashville developer David Chase.

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S.E.C. Sues Tesla CEO Elon Musk

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court accusing Tesla CEO Elon Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements on Twitter that had the potential to hurt investors, the New York Times reports. The suit aims to bar Musk from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies, such as Tesla; this type of punishment is one of the harshest that the S.E.C. can impose on corporate executives. In the Aug. 7 tweet, Musk said he was considering taking Tesla private and that the financing for this possible conversion was "secured." However, neither Tesla nor Musk had actually secured financing beyond initial conversations with investors. A 2013 S.E.C. policy permits companies to disclose market-moving information via Twitter, provided investors are given advance notice that the corporation may do so. Tesla had given investors notice that Musk’s Twitter account is one venue the company may deliver significant announcements.

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The Final Frontier: Ethics and the Malpractice Risks of Protecting Electronic Information – Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis

Just in time for the end-of-the-year CLE rush, the TBA has a variety of ethics CLE options across the state. As quickly as client information and case management technology evolves, so too does the legal profession’s duty to safeguard it. Join us in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis on Oct. 23, 24, and 25 for this annual event, with three hours of dual CLE, guiding attendees through malpractice risks and how to prevent them from happening in the ever-changing electronic age.

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AOC Director Honored by Women in Numbers

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate was recently honored at a reception held by Women in Numbers, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting women in public office. Tate was recognized for her many years of leadership in public service, which has included three-and-a-half years at the AOC, a term as an FCC commissioner, and a term as president of the Court Appointed Special Advocates board, among many other accomplishments.
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GDPR Privacy Complaints Filed Against Google in the EU

Privacy complaints against Google have been filed in Ireland and Britain by Brendan Eich, known for being the creator of JavaScript, co-founding the web browser Mozilla and founding the private web browser Brave, Reuters reports.  The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new privacy law that had a two-year lead-in period to provide time for companies to comply. However, the complaint argues that Google and the advertising technology industry are not processing personal data in a way that properly secures it.  Noncompliance with the GDPR carries heavy fines for serious violations. This test case could trigger an article in the GDPR and spur an EU-wide investigation.

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Rapper Not Protected Under Free Speech for Song Encouraging Police Violence

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a rapper that identified Pittsburgh police officers by name and made threats of violence against them in a song is not protected by the First Amendment, The Washington Post reports. The ruling upheld the conviction of Jamal Knox, who was found guilty of making terroristic threats and witness intimidation for his 2012 song, the music video for which included photos of the officers. 
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Memphis Police Official Says He Controlled Undercover Facebook Account

In the first day of the federal trial over Memphis police surveillance of political activists, a Memphis police official acknowledged he controlled a Facebook account he used to make friends with activists, The Commercial Appeal reports. Police Sgt. Timothy Reynolds said his department used undercover accounts to keep track of protest activities. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that the Memphis police’s surveillance of activists is a violation of a 1978 consent decree against such practices. 
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New U.S. Law Targets Tech Giants

President Trump recently signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act into law, effectively banning U.S. governmental agencies from purchasing or using certain telecommunications and surveillance products, according to Mashable. Two specific Chinese technology companies — ZTE and Huawei — were named in the bill. ZTE is the U.S.’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer. Contractors and companies using communication devices with a “substantial or essential component” manufactured by the specified companies will need to replace the technology if they wish to conduct business with the government. National security concerns about both companies have been previously expressed by U.S. intelligence officials. Huawei has expressed disdain and concern about the legislation. This bill will go into effect over the next two years.
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Put TBA UPS to Work

Have you enrolled in TBA’s UPS account for members? Visit UPS's TBA page and save up to 45% on UPS’s broad portfolio. Shipping services include next day air, international, ground and express.

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Law Office Management Tips on Shipping

If your law office uses shipping services, your TBA membership team can help you compare those costs to TBA’s UPS member benefit. Your firm office manager can work directly with TBA staff and UPS services to enroll or transfer shipping accounts. Members can save up to 45% on UPS’s broad portfolio of shipping services, including next day air, international, ground and express.

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TV Station Files Public Records Lawsuit Over Former TBI Boss’ Affair

NewsChannel 5 Nashville has filed a lawsuit after public records requests for documents related to the affair of former Tennessee Bureau of Investigations acting chief Jason Locke were denied. In her denial, Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter said the records were of interest to a criminal investigation. The TV station’s attorney said that the request was made prior to an investigation being opened and that the records don’t fit the legal definition of “investigative records.”
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WTVF Files Suit After Denied Access to Records

NewsChannel5 Nashville has filed a public records lawsuit after reporters were denied access to travel reimbursement and phone records related to former acting TBI director Jason Locke’s alleged affair with another state official. The news station’s chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, was also denied access to electronic calendars, purchase card expenditures and text messages and email communications between Locke and the official, Sejal West, who was the deputy commission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

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10 Tips for Filing an Open Records Request

Filing an open records request can sometimes be confusing. These 10 tips from the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) help to make it a little easier to make a request or deal with problems along the way. 

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Destination CLE Survey

Let's take a trip! The TBA CLE Committee would like your feedback on destination CLE events. Taking a moment to complete this brief survey will greatly assist us in developing the best CLE experience for you. Please complete this survey by Aug. 10. We greatly appreciate your help with this endeavor.
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Rep. Jim Cooper Denounces Tariff on Newsprint

According to the Manchester Times, on Monday Rep. Jim Cooper Testified to the U.S. International Trade Commission denouncing the Commerce Department’s tariff on a chief component of newsprint. “The damage this tariff will do to the newspaper and printing industries will be catastrophic,” Rep. Cooper said. Newsprint is the paper on which newspapers and retail inserts are printed.

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Editor of the Capital Gazette Has a Tennessee Connection

The day after five of his reporters where gunned down in the news room of the Capital Gazette, Rick Hutzell led the effort to publish the paper the following day. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Hutzell has a local connection - he earned a masters in communication sciences from the University of Tennessee in 1983. Hutzell was on vacation at the time of the shooting, and he rushed back to the office of the newspaper and began leading the effort to publish the paper the following day. "Our colleagues and friends are gone. No matter how deep our loss is nothing compared to the grief our friends' families are feeling," he said in the next day's edition.

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Tax Law Forum 2018

The annual Tax Law Forum will be held at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville on Sept. 17. Sessions will focus on the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Topics include the new pass-through entity tax law, an overview of the changes to international tax law, corporate and other business tax changes as well as non-profit law changes.

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Doctors Nationwide are Suing Patients Who Post Negative Reviews Online

A nationwide trend is emerging among doctors and hospitals, who are increasingly taking patients to court for posting negative comments and reviews on social media, USA Today reports. Recent cases include a Cleveland, Ohio-based physician, who is suing a former patient for defamation after she posted negative reviews about her nose job, an Arizona medical practice that successfully sued a singer who used her own website to criticize her doctors and a Michigan hospital that sued an elderly patient’s daughters and granddaughter over a Facebook post.
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Violation of Tennessee Sunshine Law Cited in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

The former city recorder for Newbern has filed two lawsuits against the city in response to his termination, reports the Dyer County Star Gazette. Citing violations of the Tennessee Sunshine Law as well as failure to provide evidence and follow procedure, Jason Roberts is seeking immediate reinstatement to his previous position, full back pay and benefits, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. Roberts was terminated in April on grounds of creating a hostile work environment and has filed suit in federal district court and Dyer County Chancery Court.

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Executive Council Member Brings Opioid Fight to Light

TBA Communications Law Executive Council member Rick Hollow fought to bring to light a lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Attorney General against drug maker Purdue Pharma. Hollow, representing the the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Knoxville News Sentinel, filed to unseal the suit. The Attorney General's office filed a motion in support of the request to unseal the entirety of the lawsuit, which was ultimately made public last week.

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Schedule Time to Read Email

A tip from the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee

Rather than checking on every e-mail as it arrives, schedule time in your calendar for reading and managing e-mail (and leave e-mail notifications silent during the other times of the day). This will enable you to have focused time for given tasks without constant interruption and distraction.
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WSMV’s I-Team Receives TBA’s Inaugural Fourth Estate Award

At the TBA Convention in Memphis last week, WSMV’s “I-Team” received the TBA’s first-ever Fourth Estate Award, a prize created to honor courageous journalism that enhances public understanding of the law. The Nashville-based station was chosen based on a series of investigative reports into misconduct by former Judge Casey Moreland. The judging panel’s vote was unanimous. See WSMV’s winning reports here.
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Financial Services Firm Secures Patent on Storing Meeting Minutes Using Blockchain

Financial services firm Northern Trust won a patent Wednesday for a method of backing up records of meetings using blockchain technology, according to Coindesk. The method utilizes a series of smart contracts to capture data related to the meeting, including records of who is attending, when the meeting took place and where. This is the latest development in what has developed into a race for blockchain-related patents, with companies such as Alphabet Inc., Google and Bank of America trying to secure blockchain patents of their own. Information on the patent can be found here.

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